All about the Cathedral of Arequipa
Arequipa Cathedral is one of the most impressive religious temples in Peru. It was built in the seventeenth century, after the founding of the city. The constant characteristic earthquakes of the region caused its remodeling on several occasions. It is made mainly of ashlar and other volcanic stones. It has a neo-renaissance style divided into 3 naves separated by other collaterals and decorated by a handkerchief vault. The façade is made up of three other façades where a set of 70 Corinthian columns stands out.
The entire architectural complex has a solidity and motley decoration in all its dimensions. Inside, there are pieces of great value with religious motifs such as canvases, sculptures, monstrances, organs, altarpieces and more. Many of these are part of the site museum of the Cathedral Basilica founded in 2011 . Because it belongs to the historic center of the city, it is considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Currently, it is one of the most important tourist attractions in the city.
The Cathedral is located right in front of Arequipa's main square, in the heart of the historic center.
The organ of the Cathedral is one of the most impressive treasures. It is also known as 'The organ of Loret' as it is the work of the Belgian artist Francois Bernard Loret. It is considered one of the largest in South America. The instrument was recovered after surviving numerous earthquakes as well as the passage of time as it has its origins in the 14th century. It is one of the most valuable pieces in the city of Arequipa.
How to go?
From your hotel in Arequipa you can walk as most of the lodgings are in the area made up of the historic center of the city. From the airport you can take a taxi service for a cost of 5 or 6 US dollars, approximately.
Map of the Cathedral
A some history
The origin of the Cathedral is closely linked with the founding of the city of Arequipa on August 15, 1540. The founding act states that a cross was placed in the place where the church will be built. The first church was built by the architect Pedro Godínez in 1544, however, the 1583 earthquake destroyed it. In 1590 the reconstruction of the church was carried out, which in turn was semi destroyed due to the eruption of the Quinistaquillas volcano in 1600 to finally be destroyed by the 1604 earthquake.
Between 1621 and 1656 the construction of the 'Cathedral of the Diocese' was carried out. This church was also damaged by the successive earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687 and 1784 as well as the fire of 1844. In the following years more reconstruction work is carried out. Likewise, jewelry and treasure donations are made from the family of Bishop Sebastián de Goyeneche y Barreda. Throughout the 14th century some of its relics were installed such as the great English tower clock, the Belgian organ, the pulpit and more.
The earthquakes of 1868 and 1985 damaged some of the structures of the Cathedral, which were restored in the following years. The last earthquake that damaged the building was the 2001 earthquake, which affected the towers. In 2011, the Cathedral museum was created, which houses highly valuable liturgical objects obtained throughout its history of more than 400 years. Among one of its most illustrious visitors, Pope John Paul II stands out in 1985.
The Cathedral has a neo-Renaissance style and is made mainly of ashlar and ignimbrite, both volcanic stones abundant in the region. Its façade is divided into three portals and two large side arches. Seventy columns with Corinthian capitals stand out on its front. At the top, the two tall Renaissance-style towers attract the eye. One of them has an English clock dating from the time of Bishop Goyeneche in 1842.
The body of the church has three naves where the central one has a larger size and body. All the naves have a kerchief roof and are divided by pilasters and other smaller naves. The whole complex, which took many years to build (mainly due to the constant earthquakes in the region) presents a neoclassical trend that attracts the eye.
The Cathedral museum
The Museum of the Cathedral of Arequipa opened its doors to the public in 2011 offering a historical tour through its treasures. Hundreds of pieces of gold, silver as well as works of art with Christian motifs are exhibited. There are 4 rooms: the first two exhibit works of liturgical art in gold and silver, and the third some ornaments and vestments of the priests. The last room, canvases by the painter Francisco Lazo.
In the Minor Basilica of the Cathedral, the presence of the main altar made of marble (by the Spanish Felipe Moratilla), the carved wooden pulpit (by the French Buisine Rigot) as well as the immense organ (by the Belgian Francoise Bernard Loret) stand out.
The goldsmith pieces are more than 400 years old and use precious metals from the Peruvian soil. Among the most valuable pieces are: the monstrance 'La moratilla' (by the Spanish Francisco Moratilla) as well as the wooden sculptures of 10 apostles of Belgian origin.
The canvases had the function of evangelizing the native settlers of the Andes. It has a baroque style characteristic of the so-called 'Cusco School'. The paintings made by the Tacnean artist (1823) Francisco Laso (famous for paintings such as The Three Races, Portrait of Felipe Pardo y Aliaga, La jarana en Chorrillos, among others, stand out.
The entrance ticket for adults has a cost of 10 Peruvian soles. University students pay 5 Peruvian soles while school children pay 3 Peruvian soles.
The entrance to the Cathedral during mass hours (Sundays at 7 am) is free.
Visiting hours to the Cathedral museum are Monday through Saturday from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.
One of the most famous relics of the Arequipa Cathedral is the clothing made with silver and gold filaments of Monsignor Sebastián Goyeneche, archbishop of the city in 1818 and who promoted the collection of relics for the church.
In the museum of the Cathedral, the marriage certificate of Peruvian colonel Francisco Bolognesi and his wife Josefa La Puente y Rivero, whose date dates from the 18th century, are jealously guarded. Bolognesi is considered a hero of the 'War of the Pacific'.
The complete tour of the museum and the Cathedral lasts approximately 40 minutes. At the door of the enclosure there are official tourist guides who may accompany visitors during the tour. The price of the service is approximately 15 Peruvian soles per tourist.
If you like colonial history in Arequipa, you can visit the other churches in the city, such as: the church of La Merced, the church and monastery of Santa Catalina, the church and convent of Santo Domingo, the church of San Francisco and the Church of the Compañia de Jesus.